Montana’s First NRCS Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative: Restoring Ranchlands for Priority Birds in Eastern Montana

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
world wildlife fund
Eastern Montana
Natural Resource Conservation Service
The nature conservancy
Grassland birds
Environmental defense fund
Farm bill
Stewardship alliance
Montanas NRCS Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative Restoring Ranchlands Priority Birds Eastern Montana Theodore Toombs Center Conservation Incentives Environmental Defense Fund Boulder Colo
Ranchers Stewardship Alliance
Nature Conservancy
Montanas First NRCS Cooperative Conservation Partnership
agricultural producers
conservation partnership
conservation partnership initiative
cooperative conservation partnership initiative
Volume 16, No. 4

Montana’s first nrcs cooperative conservation 
partnership initiative: restoring ranchlands for priority 
birds in eastern montana

Theodore Toombs, Center for Conservation Incentives, Environmental Defense Fund, Boulder, 
Colorado 80304
 Linda Poole, past Executive Director of the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, Malta, Montana 59538
 Dennis Jorgensen,* World Wildlife Fund, Northern Great Plains Program, Zortman, Montana 
 The 2008 Farm Bill introduced the cooperative conservation partnership initiative 
(CCPI), a new initiative designed to leverage resources from outside the USDA to assist 
agricultural producers in coordinated efforts to address environmental challenges in their 
region. Proposed by the Environmental Defense Fund, locally-based Ranchers Stewardship 
Alliance, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, “Restoring Ranchlands 
for Priority Birds in Eastern Montana” is the first CCPI supported by the Natural Resource 
Conservation Service in Montana. With Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks as a new partner this 
CCPI is dedicated to preserving one of the few remaining strongholds of untilled native grass 
and shrub lands in the plains of eastern Montana with the long-term goal of reversing the 
trend of declines among grassland birds. The CCPI covers over 300,000 acres of private lands 
within the 1.5 million ac landscape in South Phillips County, Montana. Private landowners 
will play a crucial role in conserving grassland birds by supporting the initiatives goal to 
increase habitat structural diversity over space and time on each participant’s ranch. This 
will be accomplished through a combination of grazing and burning strategies and practices 
applied to promote structural heterogeneity in vegetation at varying scales. The CCPI will 
provide the technical and financial resources private landowners need to continue the kind of 
stewardship that sustains healthy habitat for priority grassland birds, and a healthy bottom line 
for their ranching operations.